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100 Free & Affordable High And Low Tech Ways To Promote Live Music

Cic2006mastheadblacklogo_2 Earlier this week at Pollstar Magazine's Concert Industry Consortium in Las Vegas I gave two round-tables entitled 100 Free & Affordable High & Low Tech Ways To Promote.  It was I believe the best attended round table at the convention and really seem to strike a chord. Given the audience I geared it toward the touring industry (promoters, venues and bands) but almost any music marketer should find it of interest.  Special thanks to those who attended. - Bruce Houghton Hypebot/Skyline Music

#1.  Never leave promotion to the other guy. Bands should promote as if the promoter will do nothing.  Promoters shouldn’t count on the band or label.

Click below for more or email us and will send you the list as a Word document.

100 Free & Affordable High And

Low Tech Ways
To Promote


1.                                                                                                   1.   Never leave promotion to the other guy. Bands should promote as if the promoter will do nothing.  Promoters shouldn’t count on the band or label.

2.       Know your market or hire/befriend someone who does.

3.       Always think of the fan first when making any decisions.  Remember the Phish model.

4.       Start early.  Pre-promote AND get a show on sale now!  3-4 months prior is not too early for a rock show and 6-9 months is not too early for an adult show.  It allows time for viral/word of mouth buzz (free promotion) to build

5.       Always have a tour or venue publicist to get free media

6.       Get/send out promo material immediately after a date is booked.  Don’t wait until you need it.

7.       Email lists must be your religion. Put your list sign-up visibly on the top half of the front page and watch the list grow. Consider segmenting your email lists by state (for bands) or genres (for clubs) to fight email burnout.

8.       Produce and send good e-cards. If you’re a band use www.Jukeboxalive.com and. If you are a venue use www.audiocal.com. Their products can have built in music players. Use a newsletter builder like www.mynewsletterbuilder.com

9.       Make your web site a destination by keeping it updated and including news, giveaways, polls and things to make it worth visiting regularly.

10.   Put all your promo online including photos and logos in downloadable form for 24 access by the media and fans

11.   Encourage others to do promo for you. On your web site have a poster maker (see Derek Truck’s site or Skyline Music is having one built.) and/or putting all club or band poster in a free downloadable PDF online for fans to use.

12.   Create, utilize and reward a street team. (flyers, posters, and more).

13.   Talk to people.  Have they seen your ads. Where?  Did they grab them and provide useful information?

14.   Survey your audience via email, on the web and at shows. Try the Steven Talk House Poll before even buying a show.

15.   Get every free listing everywhere you can no matter how obscure or far away.  Maintain a “listings” email list and use it.

16.   Enhance the value of free listings (or press releases) by attaching a photo or graphic file (or a link to one) related to the event with every announcement. If they use it you get 5 times the exposure of a listing without a photo.


17.   Aggressively seek sponsorships for your concert, venue or band.  No sponsorship is too small to consider (co -branded posters?  Pay for a publicist to work both a tour/venue and the brand?   Cross promotion in ads? Free stuff? There is a lot of value to be had besides $’s).

18.   Always think of yourself (venue, promoter or artists) as a brand that needs to be defined, marketed, and protected.

19.   Try targeted local cable TV. Some local spots on Fuse or other targeted channels go for as little as $7 each.  Check out  www.spotrunner.com  or www.dmarc.com or better yet contact your local cable companies and wheel and deal.

20.   Try local internet advertising https://adwords.google.com or www.reachlocal.com

21.   Advertise on internet radio and blogs that hit your market.

22.   Create consistency for your brand by creating ad mats and stock radio spots or spot beds

23.   Underwrite/sponsor non-commercial radio and get mentions. NPR is great, but don’t forget about college radio. It might be more cost effective.

24.   Think out of the box with radio tie-ins and you might get treated better.  Try talk radio for a classic rock show.  Try classical radio for George Winston.  Try jazz radio for a fusion show. These stations want to expand their audience too.

25.   Co-brand: like a concert with a product or specialty shop.  A band can co-brand with a product. Worry less about money and think more about exposure.

26.   Sponsor somebody else’s event and get signage and mentions. (consider trading sponsorships with someone)


27.   If you’re a band have an EPK. Try JukeboxAlive or Sonicbids (www.sonicbids.com)  If you’re a club have a club rider.

28.   Create an affordable band, club or genre specific net radio stations via Live 365.

29.   Add blogs to your website by various band or venue staff members to help keep content fresh.  www.blogger.com by Google has free blogging tools and www.typepad.com has more sophisticated tools for a small monthly fee.

30.   Learn about and use viral marketing by posting on related list-servers and discussion groups.

31.   Start your own discussion group for free at http://groups.yahoo.com/

32.   Try MySpace.com. It’s free but don’t just set it up and forget it. Update it and promote it. Make it worth visiting you there.

33.   Make each show an event. What holiday is it on or near?  Is it a band member of bartender’s birthday? Any kind of Anniversary nearby?  Name your tours or show series and promote the title.

34.   The internet is your friend. Study it, learn from it, explore it and use it.

35.   Create utilize and reward an internet street team. (viral marketing)

36.   Give stuff away at each show and online – passes, seat upgrades, seats on stage, tix to the sound check, mp3’s of live songs.

37.   In the entertainment business perception can be reality.  Is your show the biggest, best, loudest, “most talked about”?  Tell the world that it is.

38.   Enhance the core fan experience and make $’s with gold circle/priority seating.

39.   Invite gold circle ticket holders or contest winners to sound check.

40.   Put a few seats right on the stage for street team members or contest winners.

41.   Run contests for best posters designs, best videos for your band or homemade commercials for your club, best song remixes or mash-ups. Put a lot of finalists up on the web.  Throw a party to announce the winner.

42.   Produce monthly or even weekly podcasts. For a band: live shows interviews, new songs. For a club: regular summaries of upcoming and recent shows with music. Have it produced by a college DJ.


43.   Fax calendars and announcements to record and head shops ,large offices, etc. using a fax broadcast software

44.   Fly a plane with a banner over someone else’s event.

45.   Park a van or truck with a banner on a main street or across from a show by a similar act or venue.

46.   Buy a billboard for an event or series of shows.  Place it strategically near a competitor or across from a college campus.

47.   Use one of the cheap automated phone answering services advertised in the classifieds to set up a special phone line for your schedule.

48.   Pass a clipboard(s) around before a show to capture emails or do a survey.

49.   Try the good old fashioned


mail occasionally.  It actually gets peoples attention.


50.   Utilize the time before the show for announcements, surveys, giveaways.  Consider recording a few “commercials to be played over the PA.

51.   Use a celebrity MC. Make him/her the host of the evening. Think out of the box: DJ’s, TV or local personalities, politicians, local bands.  Discuss way to co-promote with them in advance.

52.   Make announcements from the stage just before the show and/or between the sets about upcoming shows, the merch table, websites and email lists, etc.

53.   Program the music over your PA. Sell upcoming shows. Bands plug other bands who are helping you elsewhere.

54.   Promote “After Parties” in your venue – or even at another venue - that are cheap or free with a concert ticket.  Use band members as DJ’s.  Advertise it with the original show as a free-with-ticket value added option.

55.   Hand out flyers on the way out of the show. Venues: Calendars of upcoming dates or Bands: postcards or stickers that include the website address.

More Ideas

56.   Capture info from ticket buyers (try a service like www.musictoday.com). Ask your web visitors questions.

57.   Sell merchandise. Its; advertising that someone else pays for.  Want variety but don’t have $ try www.cafepress.com.

58.   Get creative with your merchandise – don’t just sell shirts.  Try flip books (http://www.flippies.com), for example.

59.   Encourage fans to support you – or a favorite charity – by adding a page off affinity programs to your web site.  For example, when they click on an Amazon logo on your site and make a purchase, you or a charity get back a small %.

60.   In this age of too much info and media, work to make yourself a trusted gatekeeper for a genre(s) of music. Use newsletters, blogs, tips, links, internet radio, and more.

61.   Give away (or sell) short videos on Google Video or audio via the download services of live shows, interviews, backstage, etc.

62.   Create your own related niche web site (for example MidWestmetal.com or NightlifeDetroit.com). You can make yourself the only (or primary) advertiser, but you must keep it real with info and news from others.

63.   Send thank-you notes/emails after a show.  Bands send to the promoters and fans. Venues send one to the customers.  No one ever says thank-you anymore. It will be remembered

64.   Remember to always SELL your show.  Remind people of what you are asking them to buy.  Use song titles, quotes from critics, etc.

65.   Market to the niches.  Hand out flyers and a pair of tickets to bartenders in Irish pubs for a Celtic show or motorcycle shops for a heavy metal show.  Try tattoo parlors, coffee shops, book and record stores, niche clothing stores.

66.   Make your emails and web site useful to the reader.  Add info and links about something people might think is cool that you have nothing to do with.

67.   Share your best promo ideas and avenues of promotion with other stakeholders in each show – bands, promoters, labels, publicists, and sponsors.

68.   Bands should have a “How To Promote Us” sheet with all the promo contacts and a list of promotion ideas that have worked in the past.  Venues should share their media list with the band’s team highlighting things you think will work best for this particular show.

69.   Throw non-concert related parties and events on off nights to reward your regulars.  Every club with a TV set should do a free Super Bowl party or group viewing of a popular TV show.  Bands could use an off night to hang at a club in a city they are trying to build and see a cool local band.  Let the venue announce you’re the celebrity DJ/MC in exchange for dinner or drinks.  This also allows your true fans to hang with you and feel special.

70.   Sell a series or try a combo ticket.  Ask Performing Arts Centers how well this works.  Venues:  “Buy a ticket to this show and get a free Tuesday New Band Night pass” or Bands: Buy A Ticket to this show and get $5 off our show in the next town or $5 off our New year’s Eve bash.

71.   Surprise people.  Balloon drops in July. Special guest MC’s.  Special guest musicians even if it’s just a local favorite.  A DJ or favorite bartender singing back-up.

72.   Create and use banners.  Don’t have time or $ for Kinkos? Try Avery Banner Maker. http://www.bettymills.com/specials/avery/avery.html?gclid=CO_ukdyEj4MCFUlCDgodaAZG3Q

73.   Trade occasionally for targeted email lists, but don’t overuse them.

74.   Hire or befriend a geek who will help you keep up on new technologies and internet promo opportunities.

75.   Read Hypebot – The Independent Journal Of Music Promotion & Technology http://www.hypebot.com

76.   Partner with an appropriate charity. Build good will and get more free media.  Maybe it’s a small % or maybe it’s auctioning off or selling the seats on stage or tix to the sound check.

77.   Consider Craigslist.com and Ebay.com as promotional tools…Try selling tickets and merch and used drum sets or try auctioning them off.

78.   Musicians want to be actors or sport stars and actors and athletes want to be musicians.  Think about how you can cross promote so everyone wins.

79.   Always make available a color photo in hi-resolution emailable form (band or venue) and you’ll get better placement in Sunday editions and calendar sections.

80.   Develop several creative seating configurations for different kinds of shows (all seated, a dance floor, all ages sections) and promote what your using in advance in all ads.

81.   Consider unusual cross- promo partners like Whole Foods for a folk show or a video game store for an alternative act.

82.   Fans travel so try cross–promoting with another show (by the same band or a different band) in a city 50 or 100 miles away.

83.   Create a special “Insider” email list for pre-announcement and include key media and tastemakers who love to know things first…and like to tell others. (Text message them – see #95)

84.   Bands should think like the country acts and agree to do meet and greet after show, promoter makes sure that it is advertised. The fans always want a chance to meet the musicians.

85.   In college towns have a student discount.

86.   Bands should make shows downloadable for free, on such websites as archive.org, etree.org or sugarmegs.org, this will help to bring people to see their show live. Not bad promo for a venue either.

87.   List all your schedules online at musctoday.com, jambase.com, jambands.com. and pollstar.com.

88.   Venues (and bands too) can make it easy and cheaper on fans to buy tickets online. Do this by having a ticketing service on their website. (Musictoday.com and Madison House both have band ticketing services) There are always going to have to be some fees, but they will not be as high has some other ticketing services, such as Ticketmaster. The Variety Playhouse in


has a good example of this – The Variety Playhouse Ticket Club.  

89.   Enhance your gatekeeper status by creating your own free Pandora.com “radio station” and linking to it from your site.

90.   Create free custom Pandora or Launch.com stations for each concert event…”To get it the mood for the Sound Tribe Sector 9 show listen to this trippy stream…”.  It’s another free way to make the concert an event, keep people coming back to your event web site, and keep them thinking/talking about the event.

91.   Explore posting under an assumed name on Friendster.com, dating site, and other “community” sites.

92.   Start a blog for every show or tour. Post when it goes it go on sale, when an opener is added, when the front rows sold out, news about the bands, everything.

93.   Produce and sponsor a cable access show.  Produce portions of it at your venue or concert.

94.   Utilize free college interns, but make sure their getting college credit.

95.   Use cell text messaging to communicate instantly. Try http://nmessaging.com. They have programs for nightclubs and bands. Use Google to find other companies.

96.   Flier, flier, flier. It’s the cheapest form of advertising. http://www.clubflyers.com/  offers 1000 free fliers every month or try http://flyerfaucet.com/ . A good flier promotes more than one show and can also be hung as a mini poster.

97.   Flier someone else’s show in a related genre.

98.   If you hear about a good promo idea, go online and research it NOW.

99.   If you try something and it works, tell others…then they’ll be more likely to share their ideas with you.

100.            Send your best ideas to

Bruce Houghton

/Skyline Music bruce@skylineonline.com  and we’ll post them at http://hypebot.typepad.com/best_promotions/

Bruce Houghton

Skyline Music /Hypebot